– General Information –
Johnny Moss was an American professional poker player and gambler. He was born on May 14th, 1907 in Marshall, TX. He passed away on December 16th, 1995.
Moss and Stu Ungar are the only two players in the history of poker who have won 3 WSOP Main Events. However, Moss’ first victory wasn’t claimed in the traditional tournament format. The first ever World Series of Poker in 1970 was a cash game festival in which players voted for the best player – Moss won that title.
However, this doesn’t take away from the fact that he was the first to win the first actual WSOP Main Event tournament in 1971. He claimed the title again in 1974, thus he’s among the only 4 players who were able to win poker’s most coveted title more than once.
Moss has a total of 9 WSOP gold bracelets. That puts him on the 5th spot on the all time list, only behind Phil Hellmuth (15 bracelets), Phil Ivey (10), Doyle Brunson (10) and Johnny Chan (10).
– Key Career Dates –
- 1925: He quits his job at the card room Otter’s Club and starts to travel around the Southern states for gambling action as a living.
- 1949: He plays a marathon session of super high stakes heads-up cash game against Nick “the Greek” Dandolos.
- 1970: He was elected as the champion of the inaugural World Series of Poker by his poker pro peers.
- 1971: He wins his first bracelet in the WSOP Main Event for $30,000. It was called the $5,000 No Limit Hold’em World Championship at the time.
- 1974: He wins the $10,000 WSOP Main Event for $160,000. That is the biggest single live tournament cash of his career.
- 1979: He gets inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
– Johnny Moss’s Career –
→ Beginnings ←
Moss grew up in Marshall, TX but was forced to move to Dallas at age 15 to work after his mother passed away and his father was seriously injured.
He got a job at the Western Union Telegraph Company. In his little pass time, he would hang around in pool halls with his friends. It was there where a group of young gangsters taught him how to cheat at cards. Moss took that knowledge and used it for good – he was hired by the card room Otter’s Club to catch cheaters in the games.
While working in the poker club, Moss himself naturally sat down to play from time to time. It turned out that he had quite a knack for the game of poker. He was winning hundreds of dollars night after night.
After a while, he was making enough to quit his job at Otter’s Club. Moss started traveling around the Southern states, looking for gambling action. He eventually found his way to Las Vegas.
→ Live Tournaments ←
Johnny Moss’ Hendon page shows $1.255 million in career earnings. That is modest by today’s standards – however, please note that Moss’ live tournament score tally has the same issues that every one of his peers’ has.
First off, his results aren’t adjusted to inflation. Second, the smaller tournaments he played aren’t accounted for since it’s so hard to keep track of decades-old tournament results. Each cash from the 70’s on his profile is either from the WSOP or Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker, the two most highly publicized poker events of the time.
The very first result on his Hendon page is him winning the WSOP World Championship at the inaugural World Series in 1970. However, that wasn’t actually a tournament – it was a vote by the players after a series of cash game sessions.
In February 1979, he took 7th place in the $10,000 Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker event. It was a No Limit Hold’em tournament held at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. 30 players entered, Moss’ 7th place earned him $15,000. In the same event series the same year, he came in 2nd in the $10K Deuce to Seven Lowball championship for $37,000.
In 1981, he won the $5K 7-Card Stud event for $57,000 at the annual Super Bowl of Poker. That is his biggest live tournament score outside the WSOP.
Moss also has 2 runner-up finishes from the Hall of Fame Poker Classics. In 1989, he came in 2nd in the $1,500 7-Card Stud event and won $52,800. Three years later he finished 2nd again, this time in the $2,500 No Limit Deuce to Seven event for $44,375.
→ World Series Of Poker ←
Johnny Moss, “The Grand Old Man of Poker”, is one of the most successful players in WSOP history. He has won 9 gold bracelets.
He won the first “Main Event” in 1970 – as we mentioned above, that wasn’t a tournament, however. Six of the world’s greatest poker players of the time came together in Las Vegas, played a series of cash game sessions, then took a vote to crown a champion and rewarded him with the first ever WSOP bracelet.
In 1971, Moss won the first actual Main Event. It was the only time the WSOP World Championship event had a buy-in of $5,000. From the next year onwards it was a $10,000 event, and it is to this day. Moss got $30,000 for his historic victory.
He won poker’s most coveted title again in 1974. He beat Crandall Addington heads-up for the first prize. That time, Moss won $160,000 – that is the biggest live tournament score of his career.
He finished 2nd in the Main Event in 1973. Since it had only 13 entries, he didn’t cash. He also final tabled the Main in 1980, taking 4th place and winning $73,000.
Moss’ 6 other bracelets come from the following events:
- $1,000 A-5 Lowball from 1971 for $10,000;
- $1,000 Limit 7-Card Stud for $13,000 from 1975;
- $500 Limit 7-Card Stud for $13,000 from 1976;
- $5,000 Limit 7-Card Stud for $48,000 from 1979;
- $1,000 Limit 7-Card Stud Hi-Lo for $33,500.
- And finally, his last bracelet was in the $1,500 A-5 Lowball event for $116,400 in 1988.
Moss played in every World Series from the very first one in 1970 up until his death in 1995.
He cashed in a total of 27 events in those 25 years for a combined $834,422.
→ Live Cash Games ←
In 1949, Johnny Moss took on Nick “the Greek” Dandolos in a series of heads-up cash game matches that lasted 5 months. The two biggest gamblers of the time battled under the arrangement of legendary Las Vegas casino owner Benny Binion.
According to Moss, he finished the duel with $2 million in profit. In the end, Nick the Greek uttered the famous phrase “Mr. Moss, I have to let you go”.
Now, there’s a lot of details missing from these accounts. What were the stakes? What was the game type? Any specific hands?
We may never get the answers to those questions, because the entire event may have never even taken place.
There are no contemporary records of this heads-up match. Everything we know is from the recollection of Moss and his close companions from decades after the alleged historic cash game took place. Furthermore, Benny Binion never confirmed the story to be true in his lifetime.
Nonetheless, English poet and novelist Al Alvarez published a book in 1983 about the legendary heads-up game with the title “The Biggest Game in Town”.